Picture yourself spying on a herd of sleeping elephants or waking up next to giraffes enjoying breakfast. No, you’re not on an exotic safari, but you are spending the night at the zoo. From California to Connecticut, here are five zoos and aquariums where you can have a sleepover with lions, zebras, pandas, snakes, and stingrays — without the crowds.
1. San Diego Zoo Safari Park (San Diego, CA)
The Roar and Snore Safari is the next best thing to an actual safari. The camping experience includes a tent on the edge of the African Plains area — where you’ll be able to observe grazing giraffes, rhinos, and antelopes — along with activities, guided walks, campfire program, dinner, evening snack, breakfast the next morning, and a souvenir.
Prices are from $140 per person, plus admission (from $50).
2. Smithsonian National Zoological Park (Washington, D.C.)
Here, the Snore and Roar program lets you choose from several tour choices for your overnight stay in a four-person tent. Opt to drop in on the lively sea lions, watch slumbering sloths, learn more about the majestic elephants, or see baby panda Bei Bei playing with his mom in the early morning. The evening begins with an exhibit tour, followed by games, activities, walk through the zoo, and breakfast; note that dinner is not included.
Prices are from $100 per person for non-members.
3. Bronx Zoo, (Bronx, NY)
On the Overnight Safari, kids get to interact with porcupines, pet armadillos, go on a scavenger hunt to explore the grounds, and play trivia games to learn more about the wildlife. You’ll have to bring your own tent, sleeping bags, and picnic dinner for this experience, but you’ll be given drinks, dessert, late-night snack, breakfast, and a shirt.
Prices are from $150 per person for non-members.
4. Mystic Aquarium (Mystic, CT)
Bunk next to a beluga whale while overnighting at this aquarium. Pick out where you want to roll out your sleeping bag, then pet an Atlantic stingray, visit with the African penguins, go on a scavenger hunt, and make marine-themed crafts. Dinner isn’t served, so be sure to eat beforehand — but you’ll be treated to a continental breakfast when you wake up.
Prices are from $60 for non-members.
5. Monterey Aquarium (Monterey, CA)
Sleeping at the aquarium may be the closest you’ll ever get to spending the night underwater. During a Seashore Sleepover, marine life ranging from sharks and tuna to sea turtles and glittering schools of sardines swim right by you. Children have the chance to interact with the stars of the aquarium, learn about nocturnal animals, and watch a late night movie. Good to know: eat dinner before you arrive, and you’ll be served a bedtime snack and continental breakfast. Camping gear is provided at the facility, but it’s recommended that you bring some extra padding.
Prices are from $115 for the general public.